Learning a new language is exciting and enriching. It takes work and effort, so it’s essential to consider, plan, and set goals to make progress. But what are the best approaches and habits when studying English? How do you learn English effectively?
To learn English effectively, identify the reason for learning, current abilities, and preferred study model. Set specific, attainable goals. Combine formal study with an immersion approach and continual review and revision. Practice speaking and listening in real-life, relevant situations.
Learning English takes dedication but is rewarding. Let’s look at how you can best approach, undertake and enjoy your studies to learn English effectively.
Learn English Effectively In Eight Actions
Learning a language is a challenge but has enormous rewards. If you’ve decided to learn English, you’ll want to use your time wisely. Let’s look at eight ways to learn English effectively.
Identify Your Motive
You will only learn effectively if you are motivated to do so. Identifying and understanding your reason for learning English will help you set realistic goals and determine how, where, and how long you will study English.
Here are some of the reasons students gave for studying English:
- I want to attend a university in England.
- I’m going on a three-month study exchange for engineering students.
- I’ve got an overseas conference and want to chat with other participants.
- I want to take a gap year and travel.
The aims of these students are quite different. The student who wants to go to university in England needs a far higher level of fluency in academic language than the others, which means an extended study period and a focus on reading and writing. The student taking a gap year as a tourist needs to focus on speaking, and learning vocabulary around travel, airports, etc.
At the same time, consider whether your plan is realistic regarding your resources. How much time, money, and financial support can you rely on as you start studying?
Take A Proficiency Test
It’s tricky to know what steps to take if you want to learn English but don’t know what kind of course and level of study you need to do.
Beginners are easy to place, but if you’ve learned some English, you can start at an appropriate point and pace, such as in an intermediate class.
Free online placement tests can give you an idea of your proficiency.
Once you know your current ability, you can decide on what mode of study would suit you.
Take English Classes
Learning a language requires you to commit time and effort. Learning English without resources and support is difficult – though not impossible.
One of the most effective ways to use your time and focus your efforts is to take classes with qualified English teachers who have a suitable curriculum. The curriculum will be tailored to second or foreign language students.
There are various ways to take English classes, depending on your personality, circumstances, time, and financial resources.
Attend A Language School
One of the most common and successful ways to learn English is to attend classes at a language school, along with other learners of English.
These schools use proven methods to help you learn quickly and fluently, employ qualified language trainers, and have plenty of appropriate and interesting study resources.
Investing in a formal language course will pay off as you learn to speak English proficiently, write English correctly and fluently, and understand native speakers.
A language school is an excellent choice if you are a friendly person who learns best with others.
However, these schools require you to attend classes in person, making it tricky if you have a job or other responsibilities. They are also quite costly.
Take Online Classes
Taking online English lessons is a sensible option if you can’t attend a language school.
There are several online language schools and tutors, many of which offer face-to-face, one-to-one classes.
Like attending a physical language school, having a personal tutor is costly, but it is a very effective way to learn English as your study course can be customized to your needs. You can also set the pace of your studies to fit in with your schedule.
If you prefer learning one-on-one, have a specific short-term study goal, need a flexible schedule, or get distracted by a class full of people, then choose this study style.
Take A Self-Learning Course
Many students prefer to study alone and at their own pace and don’t enjoy interactive teaching.
Choose an online self-learning English program. These tend to be less costly than online tutoring sessions and formal language schools. You can work alone and at your own pace, but you can still access helpful study resources.
You can undertake these programs individually or use them to supplement other courses.
Set Specific And Attainable Goals
Once you identify your motives, know your English level, and decide how you will tackle your studies, you can set goals.
Becoming a fluent English speaker is probably your broad goal, but it takes a long time to get there, whether you’re a beginner or have some language experience. As you work towards fluency, you must set specific and attainable goals to help you plan your studies.
Achieving realistic goals will motivate you as you can track your progress. Saying, “I want to be able to write an academic essay in English within two weeks,” is unrealistic for a beginner.
Depending on the program of study you have chosen (a language school, online learning, tutoring, or self-learning), your lifestyle, and your personality, you’ll need daily, weekly, and monthly targets to motivate you.
These targets need to be specific, concrete, and time-based to see that you are steadily learning and developing your English skills on the road to fluency.
Apart from being specific and attainable, the goals must be manageable. Set goals that will challenge you but not overwhelm and discourage you. Give yourself a realistic time to complete them and work at your own pace.
If you don’t achieve a goal, try again. Language learning is a process that demands effort and concentration, so congratulate yourself on your hard work.
Celebrate and take pride in yourself as you achieve each goal, then set yourself new ones.
These are some of the goals that other English students set for themselves:
- Revise irregular verb forms for 10 minutes every evening.
- Learn five new linking expressions this week.
- Learn to spell and pronounce a new word every day for a month.
- Have a conversation with an English speaker this week.
Successful Student Secret: Plan your studies by creating a weekly timetable. Apps like My Study Life help you create a routine for studying, homework, assignments, and even your hobbies and social life.
Immerse Yourself In English
One of the proven ways to learn English effectively is called immersion.
Immersion means surrounding yourself with English in your day-to-day activities, usually in a native English-speaking country, so you have no choice but to learn English.
Many English students can’t travel to other countries for personal, cost, and practical reasons, but you can immerse yourself in English. This practice is an excellent way to support and supplement your learning, especially if your learning resources are limited.
Here’s how to surround yourself with the language you’re learning in your daily life.
Listen To English Constantly
We learn languages through formal, explicit methods, such as taking classes, studying grammar rules, and practicing pronunciation. However, another meaningful way we learn is through unconscious, implicit processes, where you are busy with ordinary tasks and not focused on studying English.
Listening to a language in the background, which happens when you are immersed in English, means that you are not necessarily paying attention to what is being said. Even so, your brain absorbs sounds, words, phrases, and patterns without your understanding.
This is a very effective and natural way of learning a language; it’s how children learn to talk.
Create an environment for yourself where English surrounds you: think of the world as an English study resource.
Here are some ideas from English language students:
- Listen to the radio in English to help pass the time when you’re washing dishes or doing chores.
- Watch TV in English. It helps if you are a sports fan, so you can follow the game while the commentary plays in the background. Watch kids’ cartoons or music videos for fun.
- Watch YouTube for topics that interest you: for instance, videos of animals or a chef’s channel for exciting new recipes.
- Listen to music with English lyrics. If you’ve always got music playing through your earphones, it’s easy to download some English songs and enjoy them while at work or the gym. Sing when you’re in the shower or vacuuming the bedroom.
- Listen to audiobooks and podcasts in English.
- Spend time around English speakers, even if you’re not having a conversation. You may be at the next table at a café, volunteering at a clinic, taking a walk, or busy in the library.
Read English Constantly
Reading is usually a conscious act that takes effort. While it’s a good idea to read magazines and books in English, try to read any English words and phrases you see daily. It’s okay if you don’t understand all the words. Run your eyes over and pick out the words you can.
Here are tips from other English students:
- Read English road signs.
- Notice any newspaper headlines or billboards in English.
- Look at advertisements and brochures in English.
- Read the information on the back of your cereal box.
- Read menus in English.
- Browse through English websites.
- Set your mobile to English.
- Read your emails in English.
Practise, Practise, Practise
The secret to all language learning is to practice speaking, reading, writing, and listening to the language as much as possible.
While immersing yourself in English is one strategy, you must also formally revise what you have learned.
Each lesson or theme you study is the foundation for the next, so ensure your base is strong enough to build on.
Developing a rich vocabulary is one of the most critical aspects of learning a language.
To learn vocabulary, you need to record new words in a way that is easy for you to revise.
Here are some suggestions:
- Organize vocabulary according to the theme, rather than alphabetically, e.g., shopping, family, nature.
- Create your own personal vocabulary dictionary.
- Draw mind-maps to revise each theme.
- Make small flashcards you can go through on the bus or train.
To focus on pronunciation, use your mobile phone to record new words and record yourself saying them.
- Ensure that you know your existing vocabulary before adding new words.
- Once you can read English, spend time reading daily to broaden your vocabulary.
Successful Student Secret: Your mobile phone is a fantastic resource for learning vocabulary. Try apps like Quizlet, which creates flashcards for you, or GoConqr, which helps you make vocabulary mind maps.
Review Study Material
Whichever mode of study you undertake, there will be notes, worksheets, and other study material. It’s essential to review this material and make notes to learn effectively.
Here are some ways to review study materials:
- After each lesson, work through the essential grammar rules. Memorizing them can be one of your goals.
- Go back to worksheets, assessments, and tasks you have completed, and study your mistakes, so that you don’t make them next time.
Successful Student Secret: Apps like Glogster help you interactively record your classes with posters and videos. Revising is suddenly a lot more fun.
Practice Speaking And Listening
The best way to acquire a language is by using it, so spend time speaking and listening to responses. Even if you’re a beginner, you must start communicating as soon as possible.
There are several ways to practice speaking and listening:
- If you are in a class, participate enthusiastically and use the vocabulary and grammar rules you are learning.
- Get feedback from your teacher and classmates on how to improve your English.
- Practice speaking English with other students or friends.
- Listen to English daily, even if it is a simple children’s TV show, and write a summary of what you heard. It’s helpful to understand what you’re listening to as it builds up your confidence.
- If possible, practice speaking and listening outside the classroom, where real and relevant activities occur. This practice helps you place language in context, understand its relevance, and connects your studies to the real world.
Successful Student Secret: Use language apps to help you practice by speaking to native English speakers. Try HelloTalk to boost your skills outside the classroom.
Be Willing To Make Mistakes
Putting your vocabulary and language rules together can be intimidating, as you worry about whether you’ll be word perfect.
But making mistakes is an entirely normal and natural part of learning a new language. Making mistakes when speaking means you are trying to communicate, which is the aim of language learning. Have the courage to use new words and experiment with language structures; most people will be appreciative and encouraging.
If you make mistakes in your written work, go back to see what you did wrong and then redo the task so that you don’t repeat the errors.
Please don’t be discouraged or pessimistic about making mistakes; learn from them. Reflect on successes, where your studies have been helpful, and where you need to make changes. Do you need additional support or study materials? Do you need to spend more time on your studies? Do you need intervention from a tutor?
If you want to learn English effectively, you must have fun doing it.
Remind yourself of your goals and work towards them. Reward yourself for your achievements.
You will be motivated to keep working if you enjoy your studies and find them exciting and relevant.
If your studies are not exciting or relevant, approach your teacher or tutor and ask for different materials or approaches.
There are endless resources on the internet, so you should find news, movie clips, YouTube videos, and websites that focus on your hobbies, job, or life circumstances.
We have a series of 4 articles you can access to help decide the best way for you to learn English. Including this one, the others are listed below.
Do and Don’t To learn English Effectively
|Identify why you want to learn English.||Avoid vague ideas and plans about learning.|
|Set specific, attainable goals.||Avoid grandiose plans that are overwhelming and unattainable.|
|Choose a model of study that suits your personality, skills, and practical resources.||Don’t sign up for language classes you know you won’t get to or are aimed at the wrong level.|
|Work at a manageable pace.||Rush through learning without bedding down knowledge and skills.|
|Use various study resources to keep learning new and exciting: classroom tuition, self-study, immersion, internet, etc.||Choose one style of study that becomes boring and repetitive or doesn’t suit your learning style.|
|Keep revising and reviewing what you’ve learned.||Move on from one lesson to another without building a solid foundation.|
|Have fun with your studies by including tasks and themes you enjoy.||Don’t see your studies as an unpleasant chore to be got through.|
To study English effectively, first set out the reason for learning, determine how proficient you are, and decide how you will learn. Then, set yourself goals and work towards them through strategies like immersion and practice. Allow yourself to make mistakes. Most of all, have fun.